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What makes a great SDR or sales development rep?

I’ve had the outline of this post written down for some time, but the catalyst to finally finishing this was the great content and experience our team had this past week at Rainmaker 2016, presented by Salesloft. Rainmaker 2016 brought amazing leaders in the Sales and Sales Development space from all over the country to Atlanta, GA in order to share their experiences and learn from thought leaders about struggles, wins, and best practices in the sales space.

I have been a Sales Executive for about 15 years. I have had the benefit of working with a variety of Sales Development Reps over the years. Some great, and some not so great. It has been interesting to watch the common traits that seem to reoccur among the “goods” and “bads”.

I have made a list of some of these traits, and hope that in sharing them with you, it may make your hiring process a bit more effective in finding the holy grail of SDR professionals.

OK, here we go–what to look for (in order), and how to test these behaviors in a candidate:

1. Self Starter/Entrepreneurial

A self starting, entrepreneurial attitude shows you that the rep is willing to do the needed work to break through tough accounts. Having a rep that can be held accountable will determine how much you need to baby sit him (or not?). Lets be honest, no one has time to baby sit these days.

Interview Action Item: Ask him or her if he or she has ever owned or started a business (or thought about it). Find out what research he did prior to the interview. It’s likely that someone who puts the time into his own initiatives and did his research before coming in will do the same type of research on account outreach.

2. Organized

Organization helps a rep be more efficient in daily activities. She will have a solid strategy with other reps, and her overall work flow routine will be like that of a well-oiled machine. Organization also leads to more activities; such as dials or emails.

Interview Action Item: Find out her normal day-to-day planning behaviors. Also ask about how she shops at the grocery (list or not?), or if she has goals written down for herself.

3. Good Internal Communicator

The communication between an SDR and the Account Executive is a make-or-break scenario. Good teamwork and planning wins. Everything else loses. Some of this falls on the AE of course, but the SDR needs to understand the relationship, and what is expected of him day-in and day-out.

Interview Action Item: Ask scenario-based questions about issues that a SDR may face. What would he do if he encountered a problem relevant to outreach cadence, like a main contact leaving or getting shut down by a key prospect account? How he reacts and engages is key.

4. Fast Learner

Being a fast learning is self explanatory–but to sum it up, your rep needs to be willing to do her own research, dig for data, be resourceful, and find out relevant information to break into your target accounts.

Interview Action Item: Give her a project for a second interview. Ask her to present the project to you and make sure you ask her to teach you something. You might also give her something to study and quiz her comprehension and ability to ingest the material. This is very telling.

5. Curious

Curious may sound a bit weird for this list. What this means, in context, is that the rep needs to be willing to do his homework, and be curious enough to do it well. For example, he needs to take initiative to look through social posts to make his outreach more personal. He also should be consulting with marketing about which piece of content to send.

Interview Action Item: Asking a potential rep how he would begin to develop a new account is key. Find out how he would approach a global enterprise account, and what strategies he would use to crack the code and book a meeting.

6. Articulate

A SDR needs to be well spoken in email and phone. Your SDRs are the front lines. It’s a hard enough job, but doing it while being lazy and sloppy…well, bad idea.

Interview Action Item:  Do a mock phone call or email exchange with your candidate as a follow up to the first interview. Have her engage with you as she would a potential prospect.

7. Empathetic

Sounds odd right? Yes, empathy will get meetings! When your rep can understand and relate to the pains in a business, and with the practitioners in that business, meetings get set. It’s that simple. As the SDR does his homework prior to outreach, he should be able to identify pains in the organization, and attempt to provide a solution to those pains when trying to set meetings.

Interview Action Item:  Ask the candidate how he would use empathy, simple as that. Does he even believe it matters?! Ask for a example of how he used empathy at work in a previous role.

Based on the above, you will find individuals that meet these qualities to be among the best you can get in terms of a strong performing SDR. At this point in my career, I am fortunate to have worked with two stellar SDR’s. Jack Veronin, and  Sandy Martinez both are top notch in every aspect of the above.  Jack has persistence and creativity to break into any Fortun 50 account, and Sandy was equally as impressive. She never missed a beat, and more times than I can remember, she kept me in line! When a SDR exhibits the above traits, his or her willingness and ability to win is just about unstoppable.

But, on the other side of the coin, there are some things that would likely result in a poor hiring choice, and lack luster performance on the sales floor. The following are some things I would steer away from.

What Not to Look For (In Order):

1. Over Controlling: An SDR trying to trump an AE leads to a long and serious set of problems.

2. Passive: You don’t want a SDR that is unwilling to take the bull by the horns and who expects the AE to do the work for her.

3. Lazy: One word here–Inbound. Don’t let the SDR get compensated on inbound leads only and certainly don’t let him sit around waiting on those leads to come in.

4. Distracted: If your SDR isn’t hungry for the business and isn’t creating her own set of plans to achieve her goals, it will be hard to motivate her externally.

5. Over Zealous: Make sure your SDR has a “learning state-of-mind”. If he thinks he is overqualified, your time together will be a long and painful climb.

So there you have it. Hopefully the list above will help you identify some great, and less than great candidates, and allow you more focus in your hiring decisions. The SDR role is a key part of the sales team, and having a good group of them can make or break your revenue. Don’t settle for less than you deserve.